I have long pictured the epitome of casual yet elegant relaxation at home to consist of being clad in a smoking jacket and slippers with a tasseled fez perched atop one’s head.
I suppose that this imagery of casual elegance was influenced by the likes of Augustus Mutt and Major Hoople. For those unfamiliar with pop culture from fourscore years ago, allow me to enlighten you. Both of those individuals were characters in comic strips, Mutt and Jeff and Our Boarding House, respectively.
Evidently I’ve received my fashion sense from the comics section of the newspaper. Printed matter held a stronger sway over me than did television as I carried no sartorial envy of such cathode ray pop culture entities as Ward Cleaver with his cardigan sweaters, white shirts and ties.
When Mr. Mutt and Major Hoople were out and about in the outside world, they dressed in the apparel of the times, three piece suits, hats and spats. But when relaxing at home, each of their bare domes were decorated with a fez and their suit coats replaced with a smoking jacket. With feet nestled cozily in a pair of leather slippers, each would sit in an upholstered armchair reading a newspaper by the light of a floor lamp with a fringed lampshade. Next to the chair was an upright ashtray that held a burning cigar.
This, to me as a child lying prone on the floor with the over-sized Sunday funnies folded out below me like a newsprint carpet, was the height of luxurious relaxation.
I have yet to attain those splendiferous sartorial heights of requiescence but I hold out hope that my dream, like Snow White’s prince, will someday come.
However, I can forego the cigar. They’re pretty noxious.
I have puffed away on a few in my lifetime. My first puffs were in grammar school. Tom Kristie had one and told me to inhale deeply, the treacherous cad. I didn’t get sick but I certainly didn’t feel very well.
In my teens I experimented with various combustibles—different brands of cigarettes and cigars. The cigars were of the cheap variety and, as such, unfinishable. As I got older, I was gifted with a good cigar now and then from such occasions as the birth of a child or a job promotion.
I must admit, there’s something about smoking a really good cigar.
It’s much smoother than the pedrestrian El Ropo. The aroma, at least to the smoker, is enticing. One can work the stogie around to the corner of one’s mouth and chomp on it, eventually feeling like Ring Lardner or Ben Hecht, ready to pound away on an Underwood while outfitted in a vest and stiff-collared shirt with a straw hat pushed back on your head.
One can spend a pleasurable couple of hours smoking a cigar. The down side is that a taste, akin to the bottom of an old shoe being dragged across your tongue, lingers in your mouth for the next couple of days.
Nope, I can do without the cigar and ashtray. Now, a petite side table with a snifter of benedictine and brandy residing atop it, that would go well with my smoking jacket and fez.
Ah well, a man can dream, can’t he? Especially a man clad in a ratty bathrobe with an ill-fitting Sox cap from 1961 on his head and a can of Old Style perched precariously on his knee as he tries to enlarge the fonts on his iPad-knock-off tablet.
Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Midnight Cowboy…
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When one is in the throes of a cold, one’s thinking slows down. At least, this happens to me. It can be very embarrassing since my thought process is pretty slow to begin with.
I recently learned that it carries over to my thought processing in dreams as well.
The other morning I was in a dreamscape setting that was reminiscent of the old shops on Kinzie Street that bought and sold old comic books, magazines,movie posters and related paraphernalia. There was an essence of old newsprint in the REM-produced air.
There were other people in this dream with me but they weren’t people I knew. I guess you would call them dream extras. I was having a conversation with two fellows and a couple of other guys were off to the side engaged in their own repartee.
Whatever our conversation was, I attempted to equate a part of it to a particular movie actor but I couldn’t come up with his name.
“His name is John.”I avowed.
“He was in Midnight Cowboy with Dustin Hoffman.”, I continued, “You know who I mean.”
My two comrades looked at me blankly.
“Oh, jeeze.”, I whined, straining to think of the actor’s name.
Despite the absence of a light bulb turning on over my head, I soldiered on, although it felt like I was doing so through thick mud with a full pack on my back.
“He’s been in lots of movies. His name was even the main part of a Seinfeld episode.”
I began feeling upset and frustrated that I could not conjure up this well known thespian’s moniker. I knew that his daughter was a movie star as well but I couldn’t come up with her name either which I felt didn’t matter since it wasn’t the same as John’s.
The two fellows I was speaking with were, unsurprisingly, no help. The other two fellows had finished their confab and one of them was turning to leave the shop. I stopped him.
“Excuse me, could you help me? Do you know the name of the actor in Midnight Cowboy? The one named John?”
“Lawlor”, he answered, “John Lawlor.”
He left the shop and the little bell above the door tinkled.
I turned to my crew and they both rolled their eyes upwards and threw their hands in the air, saying in unison, “Of course. John Lawlor.”
I said “No, that’s not right. His name isn’t John Lawlor.”
It was then that I awoke. I didn’t sit upright in bed, I merely opened my eyes. This is why I remembered the dream and how you, dear reader, found yourself in this particular situation.
I laid there on my pillow, continuing what my dream self was doing, trying to remember the guy’s name.
“This is really silly”, I thought to myself, “I know the actor, I’m quite familiar with his name. I’ve seen Midnight Cowboy a few times. Why won’t it come to me?”
I began going through the alphabet, trying to see if the first letter of his last name would come to me but, like the Republicans in the Benghazi grilling of Hillary, I came up empty.
“Maybe his name isn’t even John?” I thought as a slight rush of panic overtook me.
Now, this didn’t go on for hours, it was more like several minutes but it seemed much longer. Suddenly, I gasped.
“Voight! That’s his name! Voight!”
I realized that the alphabet routine didn’t work because by the time I neared the end of the alphabet run, I was growing tired and probably quickly ran through UVWXYZ. Then another realization hit my phlegm-filled head.
“His name isn’t spelled John. It’s Jon, Jon Voight. Maybe that was the problem I had in remembering it.”
Satisfied that that was indeed the obstacle in my road to recovery, I fluffed up my pillow, closed my eyes and set my sails for another adventure in Dreamland.
I just hoped the next escapade wouldn’t be as harrowing as this one.
Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was French Way…
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The swimsuit clad couple lie on the beach entwined in each others’ arms as the waves crashed against their writhing bodies. Their lips locked as if in a death struggle against time.
He lifted his head from the blonde’s full fleshy lips and whispered, “I hate you.”
Her eyelashes fluttered, her perfectly plucked eyebrows narrowed and she breathlessly replied, “Say it like you mean it.”
She grabbed the back of his glistening head of curly hair and directed his face downward. Once again he dove into her waiting, wet, and wanton lips, deeper and deeper until they both became hopelessly lost. Their bodies became one in the sand and foam as the sun sulkily set and the moon blushingly made its appearance and silently shone upon their thrusting and twisting bodies.
Afterwards, he withdrew a pack of Gauloises from his swimming trunks pocket and liberated a soggy cigarette from its damp enclosure. He reached over for a pair of sticks lying nearby and using the skill he learned from his boyhood days in the Scouts, rubbed them together furiously in order to create a flame.
Lighting his limp stick of tobacco, he inhaled deeply and then inserted the burning concoction between the lips of his companion. She too inhaled deeply.
“There’s no reason to go on, is there.” He sleepily asked in a non-interrogative way.
She exhaled a plume of white smoke, looked at him and purred, “Was there ever?”
“It’s all nonsense really.” He continued as he plucked a piece of tobacco from his lips and flicked it onto the sand.
She laid her head upon his chest and smiled that secret smile that women possess and softly sighed as he went on.
“Meaning has no meaning, reason has no reason and existence merely exists.”
“Oh, Jean-Claude,” she murmured, “You are so French.”
He sat up quickly, jostling her from her resting place upon the rippling muscles of his youthful abdomen.
“I think you should have an affair.”
“I agree.” She replied, combing her long blonde locks with her fingers. “But, with whom?”
He pondered, ever so briefly, before answering.
“With that handsome young boy we met at the café earlier today.”
“Do you mean the boy with the wavy brown hair and turquoise eyes who drove the yellow Bugatti with black leather seats?”
“Yes, yes, that’s the one.”
“Why, Jean-Claude, I barely noticed him.”
Jean-Claude re-positioned himself to his knees, grabbed the girl by her silky alabaster shoulders and looked intensely into her emerald eyes.
“Do it, Elke. Do it for me.”
“Mais oui, Jean-Claude, but why? Why is it so important to you?”
“Why, mon cheri? You ask me why?”
“Yes, mon canard, I believe I did.”
“Because, ma bichette, it would demean me. It would emasculate me and fill me with shame. Most importantly, it would give me even less reason to go on living.”
“Oh, Jean-Claude”, she squealed as she hugged him, “You are so French.”
As nightfall’s ebony fingers drew an obsidian curtain on the scene, all that could be espied was the bright orange spot from the tip of a burning cigarette. The ghostly smoke trails from the fiery ember languorously twisted and entwined in the night sky as the ocean slowly lapped at the ever-submissive shore.
Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was High Hopes…
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With the baseball season having wound down, I guess now is as good a time as any to announce my retirement from unpaid blogging at the Third City.
It was a difficult decision. Unpaid blogging has been such a big part of a few hours of my life every week. But it’s time to step down and give a shot to someone else who aspires to work for nothing.
I’ve had a good run. Well, it wasn’t a full on sprint. More like a jog.
And I couldn’t have done it on my own. It required proper footwear.
Besides that, there was you.
To the masses of Third City readers out there, thank you. We really shook up the world, didn’t we? No one will ever look at baseball, and the other stuff I wrote about occasionally, the same again.
Of course, the people I’ll miss most are the guys in the clubhouse.
To White Sox hitters, keep your shoulders in, fellas. Don’t be flying open on that breaking stuff.
[sniff] Oh god, I told myself I wasn’t going to cry.
And to Sox pitchers, watch those arm angles boys, stay in your slots, ok?
Farewell Cubs players, I hardly knew ye. Literally, I have no idea who most of you are. And yet somehow I maintained a job as a Chicago baseball correspondent.
A lot of you may be asking, what’s next for you, Chris? After not getting paid to write inspired thoughts about baseball for a niche local humor blog, what’s left to conquer in this world?
Chris waves farewell to his fellow staffers at TTC…
Well, I’d like to take a moment, while I’m announcing my retirement as an unpaid blogger at the Third City, to announce that I’ve decided to become a paid blogger at the Third City.
Yep, I’ve been giving it a lot of thought, discussed it at length with my family, and I’ve decided that getting paid is the way to go.
In fact, I think I’ll get paid by the syllable. That’ll be advantageous because I use a lot of multisyllabic words like “idea,” “alien,” and “Oceania.”
I’m contacting my employer, Benny Jay, via email right now and informing him of my decision. Here’s what I wrote:
“Dear Benny Jay: What’s up? How’s the gout? Last time I saw you, you were swelled up like a Macy’s Day balloon. But, hey, let’s not get too personal because I’m going to make this email public on a blog post. Why public? Because it’s part of my announcement that I’m letting go of the life of an unpaid blogger and decided from now on I’d like to be paid by the Third City. Also, is it possible to get paid by the syllable? Attached is info for my W-2 and a copy of my social security card. Weekly or biweekly checks will be fine. You know me, I’m easy. Take care, and lay off the liquor and sardines. Lol. Chris.”
Oh, and here’s a reply from Benny Jay already.
Oh boy, he’s not happy. Let’s see. “You [expletive] [expletive]. No [expletive] way.” Yada, yada, yada. “Wait til I get my [expletive] hands on you.”
So anyway, I’d like to take this opportunity to announce my comeback as an unpaid blogger at the Third City…
Editor’s Note: Chris‘ last post for The Third City was The Adventures of Mad Dog and Sleepy…
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Many of us have ambitions, some goal we strive toward, a dream, a grand scheme. Some people attain their objectives but most fall short.
Me, I never had any sort of ambition. I never set a goal to work toward. I had no dream, no grand scheme. Ergo, I’ve never disappointed myself.
Oh, I’ve been disappointed with myself many times but not for falling short of my goal since, as I stated, I never had one. Well, I guess I have had one goal, one single, solitary middle circle in the target of life for which I cocked my bow and steadied my arrow.
I wanted to be a drug addict.
It seemed kind of glamorous in a wrong end of the telescope kind of way. Living in a one room walk-up with paint-peeling walls, a mattress on the floor and some beatnik chick always hanging around. Living hand to mouth day by day scrounging for cash in order to score a fix in a Man with the Golden Arm William Burroughs Charlie Parker type of existence.
Ever the romantic, I.
One thing that I thought was in my favor for attaining this perhaps misguided goal is that I have an addictive personality. But what thwarts the attainment of said goal is that I also lack the quality of stick-to-it-tiveness. I can only keep at something for so long.
I’ve had many different types of jobs in my lifetime, various careers and several short-lived interests. My interest in things will suddenly and quickly evaporate. I’ve had a couple of jobs where I left for lunch and never returned. I have a trail of half-finished projects from here to Eternity, which, I believe, is located in Ohio. I’ve had dogs that when returning from a game of Fetch with a saliva-covered ball in their mouths discovering that they’re now on their own. If you contact me via phone, don’t expect to hear from me again if I answer a Call Waiting.
I’m a victim of synapses that won’t stop exploding. Neuron overload. Or perhaps it’s just a lack of self control.
But I’m always a sucker for something that’s a snap so I thought this drug addiction thing would be easy. I’ve smoked my share of pot but that’s not an easy herb to get addicted to. I’ve gone months and years without getting the shakes for it so I’m taking a rain check on that reefer.
Psychedelics? I went through the entire alphabet—LSD, PCP, THC, STP, DMT, DMZ, MVP, QED,MP3 and XRT. I didn’t get hooked on a single one. I was SOL.
Frank Sinatra had that golden arm…
Cocaine seems like an addictive drug. Is it still popular? It sure was back in…the ‘80s, the ‘70s maybe? Whenever that whole Studio 54 thing was. I tried it a couple of times but I didn’t care for it. I didn’t feel any sort of high from it and that’s the whole point of getting high, isn’t it? I sure didn’t like the way I felt the next morning with a metallic taste in my mouth and the sensation of gears slowly grinding in my head.
At least when you wake up with a hangover from drinking, you know you were having fun from being drunk the night before. So, no coke for me. Pepsi, please.
Heroin is supposed to be the ultimate high. It’s also one of the most addictive drugs, after nicotine. A big drawback for me was the usage of needles.
I have never liked, and still don’t like, watching a needle enter one’s skin and into a vein. I have never seen my blood drawn. I’m always looking the other way. Even on TV shows and movies, my peepers are shut tight whenever there’s a close up of a needle.
I guess you can also choose to smoke and/or snort heroin. My cocaine experiences nix the latter option and smoking it seems like a coward’s way out. If you’re gonna be a junkie, you gotta shoot. Am I right? It’s either all the way or no way.
So, no horse riding for me.
So much time has passed that I am now too old to fulfill that drug addiction dream. It’s a young man’s game. Heck, I can’t even be a drunkard because I can’t drink enough to get drunk anymore. My snoring interferes with my sipping.
I suppose that I’ll have to satisfy myself by sticking with the one addiction that I have successfully attained.
“Barista! Another mugful of espresso, if you please. And this time, make it extra-crunchy!”
Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Halloween Duck…
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For major league managers, the baseball offseason can be a real bore. So Cubs and White Sox skippers Joe Maddon and Robin Ventura decided they’d pass the time battling evil on the city streets as the crime fighting duo Mad Dog and Sleepy.
Since their superpowers don’t include flying ability, and neither owns a car, Maddon and Ventura thought they’d split a cab to their crime fighting destination, which is yet to be determined.
“Take us to a dark alley in a seedy neighborhood or a diabolical mastermind’s secret lair, my good man,” Maddon tells the taxi driver, “Tonight, evil has met its match!”
“I look ridiculous in this costume,” complains Ventura as he shifts awkwardly in the back seat—a dozen down pillows strapped to his body with worn leather belts and duct tape, an old football helmet with a single-bar face mask atop his head.
“Why do I have to be ‘Sleepy’?”
“The name speaks to your dugout demeanor,” explains Maddon, who, since fighting crime was his idea, had the honor of picking the superhero names, “and Robin is taken.”
“And your costume is fine. Cushioned by those pillows you’re impervious to pain.”
“More like impervious to dignity,” mumbles Ventura.
Meanwhile, Maddon is pretty juiced about his own, homespun get up. The cape is made of brown shag carpet and stapled to a studded dog collar buckled around his neck. But the key to his superpowers are the novelty vampire teeth he carries in his pocket. When he pops those babies in, it’s like a switch being flipped. That’s when mild-mannered Joe Maddon becomes the unstoppable beast, Mad Dog.
“Alright fellas, that’ll be $13.50,” interrupts the cab driver, pulling to the curb.
Mad Dog glances outside. “Hey, this is a yuppie neighborhood. I said to take us where evils lurks.”
“I figured you guys were better off here,” the driver says wryly.
“Well, it might not be a bad idea to hone our skills in this environment. Right, Sleepy?”
Maddon notices that Ventura is snoring underneath his football helmet.
“Sleepy, wake up!”
“Huh? Oh, sorry,” mutters Ventura, “It’s so damn comfortable being strapped inside these pillows, I guess I dozed off.”
“You owe eight bucks.”
Ventura takes off his helmet and grabs his velcro wallet from inside.
“All I have is a ten.”
Maddon adds a few more bills and hands the money to the driver. “Keep the change.”
The cab peels away, leaving our heroes on a bustling street corner, surrounded by raucous twenty-somethings.
“This is so embarrassing,” says Ventura, snapping his chin strap.
“Don’t worry, no one can recognize us in our superhero costumes,” insists Maddon.
“Hey Ventura, you suck!” screams a random passerby.
“What do we do now?” a miffed Ventura asks.
“I don’t know. Look for a damsel in distress?” suggests Maddon, shrugging his shoulders hidden beneath his shaggy cloak.
Just then, a frazzled young woman saunters up to the dynamic duo. “Excuse me, can you please help me?”
With a, “Fear not, fair maiden,” Maddon hastily inserts his vampire fangs and starts going berserk.
He begins with a few “Grrrrs!” and a “Ruff! Ruff!” And then he starts howling and clawing at the air with half-clinched hands.
The woman is unfazed. “Can you tell me where Armitage is?”
Mad Dog halts his antics, and points from underneath his carpet cape.
“Yesh. Eets ut aye avout shree zocks.”
“I’m sorry,” says the woman, “but I can’t understand you with those plastic teeth in your mouth.”
Maddon gingerly removes his superfangs. “Sorry. It’s that way about three blocks.”
“Thank you so much.”
The woman scurries off. Maddon puffs out his chest and looks side to side, perusing his domain, and feels satisfied.
“I think our job here is done,” he says.
The familiar sound of Ventura’s snoring returns, and Maddon turns to see his sidekick propped up against a light post, snoozing inside his downy ensemble.
“Sleepy, wake up! It’s quitting time. Let’s get a drink.”
“Good idea,” says Ventura, pulling his helmet off, “We can catch the last few innings of the World Series game.”
“There now, Sleepy, the World Series is over.”
As Mad Dog and Sleepy stroll toward a tavern down the street, an unidentified voice echoes behind them.
“Yo, Ventura, bite me!”
That’s it for this edition of the Adventures of Mad Dog and Sleepy, tune in next time when our heroes battle a late-night burrito craving and indifference.
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When I was in first grade we lived in my grandmother’s house. She had canaries and a scruffy long-legged mutt named Rummy. Doves lived in the attic. A cynic would say they were pigeons but I remember that they were white and there were only two of them.
So, they were doves.
The back yard had a nice little lawn and bordering it on either side as well as at the back by the garage were flowers galore. The fence surrounding it all was that old style pre-cyclone type that was made of wire and the color of it was green.
It was always dark in my grandmother’s house. The blinds were usually drawn and lights were rarely turned on—to save on electricity, I suppose. The switches were the old-fashioned push button types. The phone had a party line. Many a time I would pick up the receiver only to hear other people speaking. Each member of the party line had a special ring tone.
There was a television set, in a wood cabinet with four legs. The inside, of course, was filled with various tubes. If the TV didn’t work, you would have to take the suspect tubes to the hardware store and test them on a tube tester. When the guilty one was discovered, you bought a replacement, went home and got the set working again.
I remember watching wrestling on that TV when we lived at my grandmother’s house. The likes of Verne Gagne, Dick the Bruiser, Moose Cholak, Bruno Sammartino , Gorgeous George and a villain known as The Mad Russian would cavort upon the canvas and I ate it up.
However, the most popular TV show for us kids was The Mickey Mouse Club. It consisted of a bunch of kids in white Tshirts with their names printed upon them in block letters and they all wore caps with Mickey Mouse ears. They sang and danced and did skits.
However, the favorite part of the show for most kids was when they showed cartoons and the most memorable part of the show was the animated opening where every kid’s favorite anti-hero, Donald Duck, would intervene and try to rename the show after himself.
We all loved Donald Duck. He was more like us kids than goody-goody Mickey. He would do stupid things, get in trouble and lose his temper. He was what one would call a rascal.
I could draw a pretty good Donald Duck. I was flooded with requests from my schoolmates to draw Donald for them. This I would do and being the type of businessman that I grew up to be, I never charged a penny or a favor for any of them.
That Halloween I had my eye on a store-bought Donald Duck costume. There would be no home-made hobo costume for me that year, no sirree, I was gonna trick or treat in style. But, the hallowed day was nearing and I still hadn’t seen the box holding this treasured item anywhere around my grandmother’s house.
One day, I was returning home from school and entered, as usual, through the back door. Absent-mindedly, I trudged up the stairs to the enclosed back porch from which there was a doorway to the kitchen. As I reached the top step and turned the corner to enter the kitchen, a creature leapt out at me.
Every hair on my head and arms sprang to attention. My body was covered with goosebumps. I jumped back and I probably shrieked. It was heart attack-producing. Fortunately I was only 7 years old. To this day, I remember exactly how I felt during that terrifying moment.
What had frightened the beejesus out of me was my mother sticking her head into the doorway wearing a Donald Duck mask!
The lesson I learned that October afternoon was that one needs to be careful about what one wishes for. You never know how it’s going to arrive.
Editor’s Note: Jim‘s last post for The Third City was Kumiko Reviewed.
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